A Sweet Twist to the Jewish New Year

Friday night at sundown, September 18th, is the start to a new year on the Jewish (lunar) calendar.  It marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, meaning “Head of the Year.” It also means I’ll be dipping apples in honey, wishing my friends and family a sweet new year.  As I have shared here before, I am definitely one for traditions and simply love all holidays – annual get-togethers, celebratory atmosphere and tables filled with recipes that show up year after year.


But for the year 5770, I wanted to bake something a bit different, stray from the typical (even if delicious) honey cake and babka.  Yet I still wanted to keep the message the same.  A sweet new year.  I pictured our beautiful holiday table set year after year with a round challah, piles of sliced apples and honey and new seasonal fruits – pomegranates, persimmons and fresh figs.  And that’s when it clicked – I knew what I would make… a recipe I told my readers they would see here on the blog one day.  And this was the perfect occasion… nougat (or torrone)!  I would make a honey-based nougat and add dried figs as a second nod to the new year.  After all, is there anything sweeter than nougat?!


You can use whatever honey you have on hand, and if it’s not liquid, simply put it in the microwave for a few seconds to make it so.  From my cupboard, I pulled out a jar of Aleluya honey harvested in Argentine pampas, beautiful purple and green Iranian pistachios and plump dried figs from Turkey.  I should note here that for more conservative Jews, it is customary not to eat nuts on Rosh Hashanah, as the numerical value of the Hebrew word for nuts (egoz) is the same as the Hebrew word for sin (chet).


Feel free to play with the recipe, replacing almonds or hazelnuts for the pistachios, for example.  You can even add different flavorings like orange flower water, which is common in nougat.  Or use almond extract, lavender honey or vanilla.  I went au natural for this round and let the honey’s flavor dominate.  You can also play with the shape and thickness, making long, flat bars (typical around France), small individual squares or even make pie slices as I had discovered in Venice.  Whatever you do, you’ll want to avoid a real sticky situation – pun intended.  So as I discovered with my marshmallow adventures, remember that cornstarch is still your best friend.


Happy New Year to all who are celebrating!  L’Shanah Tovah and all the best for 5770!

Dried Fig and Pistachio Nougat

1 cup (350 grams) honey
1 cup (225 grams) sugar
1/3 cup (5 oz) water
2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup (125 grams) shelled pistachios
1 cup (145 grams or 6 large) dried figs, finely chopped
generous portion of cornstarch

Oil or butter an 8″ (20 cm) baking pan, then line the bottom and sides with pieces of edible wafer paper, trimming to fit. You don’t need scissors, just crease and the paper will break like crackers.

Heat honey, sugar and water in a heavy pot over low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium heat, without stirring, washing any sugar crystals down the side of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Attach a candy thermometer to the pot and continue boiling, stirring occasionally, until it registers 310 to 315 degrees Fahrenheit (154 to 157 degrees Celsius), the upper end of the hard crack stage. Do not walk away at this point! Watch the syrup closely, as it can quickly burn near the end of the cooking process. As the temperature rises, beat egg whites with salt until they hold soft peaks. When the syrup is ready, remove from heat and let stand a few minutes.

With mixer on its lowest speed, slowly pour the hot syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream down the side of the bowl. Increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture has cooled down, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in pistachios and dried figs with a very sturdy spatula (it’s real stiff at this point).

With hands coated in cornstarch, place nougat on a work surface also sprinkled with cornstarch. Gently knead a few times to form a smooth mound. Fit into baking pan, pushing nougat toward the edges and making smooth. Cover with a square of wafer paper, trimming to fit. Place a second 8″ (20 cm) baking pan on top with a book or canned goods in it, so that you get an even surface. Let stand at room temperature for at least 8 hours.

Run a thin knife or metal spatula around edges of pan to loosen nougat, if necessary. If the wafer paper was high enough on the sides, you should be able to simply lift it out of the pan. Place nougat onto a cutting board sprinkled with cornstarch.  Do not attempt to remove wafer paper! Trim ends and cut nougat into long strips, and again into rectangles or squares.  After each slice of the knife, re-coat the blade with cornstarch.  Wrap each piece of nougat in parchment or wax paper to avoid spreading and sticking together.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature for a week or two — if it lasts that long!

38 Responses to “A Sweet Twist to the Jewish New Year”

  1. El says:

    I love nougat and make it all the time. I never considered adding figs. Can’t wait to try it. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. VeggieGirl says:

    Wonderful holiday recipe!! Happy New Year to you.

  3. Sam Sidney says:

    Ok.. first of all.. I cant believe you made that.. it looks so super impressive! I feel like I see that in shops all the time, and you can actually make it!

    Second… This totally reminds me of those little honey sticky deserts you used to make when you started exploring your culinary side.

    Third… once again after reading your blog I am heading to the kitchen to look for something sweet to eat… its real slim pickins here.. but I do think I have apples and honey.. hope it isn’t too early to have some.


  4. michele says:

    I’ll have to keep reminding myself that cornstarch is my BFF. Thanks for the great recipe – love the post! Happy New Year!! xoxo M&M

  5. Sarah says:

    Amazing! I love it… L’Shana Tova

  6. “Warm Wishes for Rosh Hashanah” and related posts - KuASha Organization says:

    […] A Sweet Twist to the&#32&#74&#101wish New Year – MyKugelhopf […]

  7. Rosa says:

    That nougat looks wonderful! Happy New Year!

    By the way, I just discovered your blog and already love it!!!



  8. Lani says:

    Thank you for the sweet New Year treat! I do love nougat but never thought of putting that on the table for dessert during the Jewish Holidays. It looks easy to make from you photographs but I am sure it was complicated! You made it look so perfect! Have a wonderful, sweet and happy New Year.

  9. happy new year in hebrew | Random Hot News says:

    […] it would be befitting to choose a Hebrew date. … http://thejewishside.blogspot.com/ MyKugelhopf » Blog Archive » A Sweet Twist to the Jewish New Year 15 hours ago … pistachios and plump dried figs from Turkey. I should note here that for […]

  10. Emma says:

    That just looks so professionally delicious. I’m trying to keep my eyes on the wonderful raw ingredients and the lovely end product, but in this case all I see is the salt that I used to purchase while living in France. Such small things can trigger so many good memories, scents and tastes.

    Enjoy the New Nougat and the New Year!

  11. Chris R says:

    That looks fanstatic.

    Happy Rosh Hashanah. Warmest wishes and a prosperous year.

  12. Steve says:

    Another great post, with fabulous pictures. I love your “sticky situation” pun too. To you and yours, Shanah Tovah Umekutah – may you all be written and sealed in the book of life for a good and sweet year. Happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous (why not?) New Year.

  13. Kerrin says:

    THANK YOU ALL so very much for the wonderful new year´s wishes. I really appreciate it.

    El, wow you make nougat all the time? Do you use a similar recipe as above? You´ll have to share your nougat making tips with us for sure. And it´s definitely worth trying with dried figs or other dried fruit like apricots and cherries. Go for it! 🙂

    Sam, thanks so much for your awesome note!! 🙂 You are too funny, and yes absolutely back in the day, when I first started making candies and confections, you are thinking of my date candy!! Mmm, I might have to dive into my recipe archives and make it again, ah the good ole days, haha! And never too early to have apples and honey. A snack I love all year round in fact. Dip an extra one for me!

    Rosa, thank you! I´m so glad you´ve discovered MyKugelhopf, hope you´ll continue to enjoy!

    Lani, making nougat isn´t all that complicated in fact, just a matter of paying attention to a few details, namely being organized in the kitchen and watching the temperature of the sugar and honey closely. Other than that, it may be sticky at times, but it sure is lots of fun – and awfully delicious!

    Emma, thanks! I´m so pleased I could bring back great French memories for you. Mais oui, La Baleine salt – the big blue canister, a fixture in my kitchen too!

  14. jen laceda says:

    I’m back in Toronto now. Happy New Year!!! All the best to you and Olivier!

  15. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    Shanah Tova to you, and your family! 🙂

    I love your nougat, Kerrin! I tried making it once but it was not as beautiful as yours. I will have to take a few tips and hints from you!

    What a fabulous idea to mix up tradition and introduce this sweet treat for your holiday selection. There’s no harm in deviating away from the typical honey cake and babka – that’s always there for next year! (Already pencilled in my end!)

    I hope you’re having a lovely time! I shared my special day (yesterday!) with this fabulous holiday. It certainly is also the beginning of a new year for me, too!

  16. {kiss my spatula} says:

    happy new year to you and yours! your nougat looks just superb – love it!!

  17. Y says:

    I love making nougat (and eating it of course). Haven’t seen it kneaded like that before – very interesting!

  18. Nicole says:

    L’Shana Tova.

    That nougat looks so professional, but I am still daunted.

    May you and your have every sweetness in the New Year.

  19. Kerrin says:

    Jen, welcome back! And thanks for the holiday wishes!

    Julia, thank you! What a wonderful omen – and totally perfect for you no less – to have your wedding day on Rosh Hashanah, a SWEET beginning to a new year, new beginning, and only good to come. Honey cake and babka in 2010 for sure, you’ve got a date. But before that, I’m counting on you to take another shot at nougat. I’ve got my money on you!! 🙂

    Nicole, thank you. As for nougat, don’t be daunted! Go for it !!

  20. Jean - OurExplorer Tour Guide says:

    “A sweet new year” this feels really nice, beginning the new year with good taste. In China, it is the family dinner at last day of the year that has great value. A cheerful and prosperous meal indicates people’s good wishes for the “sweet” new year.

    Travel through the eyes of a local

  21. Uncle Beefy says:

    “Happy New Year!”, Miss Kerrin! Looks amazing and nougat is something I too have wanted to try. It does look like a mighty sticky undertaking but would seem worth it from this post. (Babka? LOOOOVE me my babka!)

  22. sandra says:

    just discovered your blog while browsing through Bloggerchoiceawards? food blogs and I.LOVE.IT!!

    Your nougat is gorgeous: I love the idea of adding dried figs. I also make nougat sometimes using honey and glucose syrup.

    You know, sephardic jews from North Africa use to eat nougat for Rosh Hashana
    because of its sweetness and also because of its color (white symbolizes purity).

    My parents are from Tunisia and there?s always been nougat on the Rosh Hashana seder plate that we ate just after the meal to keep some sweetness in our mouth, another wish for a sweet year!

  23. sandra says:

    Oh and I forgot? Shana Tova!

  24. Lani says:

    I can’t wait to taste some of your goodies…

  25. Kerrin says:

    Jean, thanks for sharing the tradition in China. It is always fascinating to learn about other cultures and how they celebrate things differently, often using food as symbol.

    Uncle Beefy, thanks for the new year’s wishes. You have the nougat itch too huh?Sticky it may be, but you said it – totally worth it! Just think – you could have babka AND homemade nougat on our table. I just felt your eyes grow large !

    sandra, thank you so much for your comment. I am so glad you found MyKugelhopf in your browsing. And I’m thrilled to hear about your family’s traditions, thank you for sharing – I had no clue that nougat was actually a traditional holiday food for Sephardic Jews – what a fun coincidence for me. I am from an Ashkenazi background, didn’t know that. I may just have to keep nougat as a regular Rosh Hashanah treat from now on! A little late, but Shana Tovah to you too ! 🙂

  26. Lady Macaron says:

    OH pistachio nougat is my favourite, great recipe you got there, gotta try it soon and insert thin slices of them in my macaron. Happy eating and celebrating.

  27. deeba says:

    Screaming gorgeous. Don’t chop it up Kerrin…will have a whole stick, pretty please!
    Just saw the link at Julia’s. These are fab!

  28. shane says:

    i bet the nougat is really good!

  29. brynh says:

    What to say… Pictures speak for themselves.. It looks delicious! 🙂

  30. mn homes says:

    Thank you for this post. Actually, I really don’t know how to make nougat. I’m so excited to try this later. But maybe I’ll use Pili nut as an alternative coz we don’t have shelled pistachios here. Again Thank you 🙂

  31. ashrin says:

    I love nougat & I tried it for the first time today after reading your website…..I’m waiting for 8 hrs to get over so that I can see the final product. My nougat was not ver stiff before I added the pistas & figs…I wonder why? Also, it was very difficult to make a dough of the nougat as it was running….please let me know if & where I’ve goffed up? Thanks

  32. Leonard Smeltmann says:

    OK, that looks fantastic. I don’t normally like nougat – I consider it abhorrent when contained in chocolate – but this has actually tempted me!

  33. Calories? says:

    That looks so delicious that i’m tempted to take a bite right out of my computer screen. . . 🙂

  34. Obesity says:

    Absolutely incredible! That is fantastic looking nougat! I’m very jealous 🙂

  35. Calories in a Banana says:

    It’s been so long since I have had really good nougat. I think I will have to give this one a try!

  36. Israel tour guide says:

    I love nougat and I will try your recipe. Thanks

  37. Nicky says:

    Kerrin, I ‘m not sure if I will be able to concentrate on my work any longer… Wanting some right now! We had some rather underwhelming Torrone experiences in our own kitchen (I remember Oliver cursing), because as good as it looked, the consistency was just not firm enough. We had to keep it in the fridge, because once on the table it started melting within minutes. Will have to try your version for sure!

  38. Rugelach Recipe | Leite's Culinaria says:

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